Training and certification of National Park guides

Published: 12 August 2016
Last edited: 10 November 2016
A competent guide and site-specific information deepen the visitor experience and understanding of natural and cultural sites. There is a need for increased quality in the range of nature-based tourism products and guides specialised in sites and site-specific information to intensify the visitor’s experience. The project answered to this challenge by developing a training system for nature guides as well as the principles governing the certification of guides for Oulanka National Park in Finland. Four guides from the Russian Paanajärvi National Park participated in the training course for nature guides in order to learn about the training and its applicability in Paanajärvi NP and to enhance their knowledge of Oulanka NP as well as to form personal links with Oulanka NP staff. Other participants of the training were guides of local nature-based tourism businesses. In order to be certified, the guides had to pass the tasks specified in the training programme. The training was given by NP specialists and practical arrangements were organised by a co-operating educational institute.

Classifications

Category
Education, training and other capacity development activities
Communication, outreach and awareness building
Alliance and partnership development
Other
Certification
Scale of implementation
Local
Subnational
Multi-national

Enabling factors

The interest of the local nature-based tourism businesses to have their guides participate in the training course was the most fundamental factor. This meant that the businesses were willing to invest in their guides, as they believed it would ultimately be beneficial for the business. The National Park’s willingness to provide resources (staff and funding) for the training was of vital importance. Open and constructive dialogue between NP management and businesses was very important during the training.

Lessons learned

The training was a great way to get to know the local nature-based tourism businesses and the people that work in them. We (managers of National Parks) learned about the realities of business, while the business entrepreneurs learned about our management philosophy and got to know us personally. After the training, the entrepreneurs saw us as actual people rather than just authorities enforcing laws. This helped improve relationships between NP managers and the entrepreneurs. During the training, it is important to have time for discussions and sharing as these strengthen the bonds between people. It is very important to do the training on the guides’ terms: they are used to oral presentation, not written, so it is good to formulate the tasks so that not much paper work is needed on the trainees’ part. It is good to make the certified guides public and give them the right to use a certified guide badge. It is vital to take into account the tourist season and avoid training during it.